A Travellerspoint blog

December 2005


An amazing place, that's impossible to comprehend. We loved it!

sunny 10 °C

We stayed in Tokyo for 4 days, which was enough to see most of what the city has to offer, but in no way have we experienced it. The city is simply huge! No, immense! No... It's a toughie to describe. Imagine the scale of New York, with the spread of London, the colours of Bangkok and site ands smells of the best food you've ever eaten, and you get part of the way to understanding it.

The major areas of the city are:

Asakusa - Our hostel was located in this more traditional part of town. The surroundings - with the exception of a few new office building and the Asahi golden blob - are older, low rise. The market was great, and we wandered round the backstreets, finding great places to eat. The temple is huge, and Dan and I used the fortune teller - it was a bad one... My friends, the Motoyama's took us out to dinner in a Shabu-Shabu restaurant. That was an amazing meal! You cook thin cuts of meet and vegetables in boiling water at the table, finishing off the broth with noodles and rice. You have to try this!

Ueno - Another traditional area, surrounded by shops, and the place we first saw the major Western influences - A Starbucks of all things! We wandered round the park here, getting our first taste of the temples we'd be seeing throughout the trip.

Shinuku - Tottenham court road combined with Soho only a lot, lot busier. I can highly recommend going to the government offices here as you can go up to the 41st floor and see mount Fuji (we had a clear day for this). There's also some great food, and gadget shopping - if you're into that, apparently they have the world's largest camera store there.

Shibuya - This is a slightly more upmarket area, comprised of a main street with designer shops, the Yoyogi-koen temple and gardens. The park area was beautiful, and kind of reminded me of being in Central Park with the trees the trees having buildings as a backdrop.  We also found some really nice cafe bars here, but a mission to find them and they're a tad pricey even by London standards.

Central Tokyo - Busy shopping district, with Ginza, one of the most expensive pieces of land in the world. And the sony centre - a great place to see the latest, and biggest Sony gadgets. There's also the Imperial Palace which you can walk around the grounds of - going inside is by invitation only sadly. We did take the opportunity to rest our feet in the spectacular surroundings.

Roppongi - The party centre of Tokyo! Roppongi hills is a fairly new place, and is described as leaving you wondering where everyone over 35 went. We didn't see it during the day, but the evening was a blast! Great place to meet people.

I love Japan. It's so far exceeded my expectations! It's absolutely amazing, and so unlike anywhere else I've been to. Wandering the streets, you constantly checking for and dodging cyclists who seem certain that their bike WILL go through that gap - and for the bike riders out there, they're all single gear, old things that must keep people so fit riding. Amazingly dense buildings, with all the cables running above ground as if they either don't care, or have never had time to put them underground - something like 20% are underground. Car parks that are like something out of Bladerunner - you park your car, and then it's whisked away into the sky by a strange swinging contraption.

The strangest thing that got me to start with was vending machines. They're everywhere, selling everything in hot and cold format. And the choice is amazing! Tea, lemon tea, Japanese tea, tea made by Coca-Cola (they have a big presence here), beer, coffee in 30 different ways... You get the idea.

As you can probably tell, I really, really like it here. The people are so friendly, the food is superb... ahh... The food... So much choice, so little money. We've tried just about everything they have going here - except for the blowfish, will try that next time we're here. The sites, the sounds. It's just a mass of energy everywhere. And no-one complains. My only regrets are not being here longer, and missing seeing the train packers in action in Tokyo. I still find that idea hard to comprehend having used London underground and knowing how much people complain.

Next off, we went to Kyoto, but we're still here, and I'll save writing that for another morning when I can't sleep. Till then...

Posted by Glug 17:28 Archived in Japan Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Land of the rising sun

We've made it to Tokyo! After all this time, we're finally on our way!

sunny 12 °C

Wandering off the plane, into Narita airport, I finally realised I was doing something I've wanted to do for a very long time! And what better way to start it, than in a country I've always wanted to visit?

The flight was great, and we arrived bang on time at Narita airport in Tokyo. We breezed through the airport, with the only cause for concern being that we were given the wrong imigration forms, and Dan's bag being slightly dirty.

The metro presented us with our first challenge in the form of seemingly 1960's inspired ticket machines. With the help of a nearby attendant, we quickly realised that the ticket prices to the various stations were marked on the map. Narita itself is about 60km outside of central Tokyo, so it took about an hour rolling through some of the most densely built up towns I've ever seen - until we rolled into Tokyo itself!

Rolling through a seemingly impossible route, travelling at about the level of the 3rd floor, with roadways and buildings above that. It's amazing! How can they get this much into such a small place. There's nothing I can liken it to, other than to say WOW!

Arriving at our stop, Asakusa - I'll skip the bit where we realised the ticket wasn't quite right, and the guard who helped us out - we hit street level. The shops and restaurants are awesome, and I knew instantly this place was going to be great! The hostel was about a 15 minute walk away, across the river, and through the immense grid iron latice work of the town - and our area wasn't even as densly built up as the other parts of town.

After dropping our bags off at the hostel, we headed off into the Asakusa and Ueno area to sample our first Japanese food on home ground - I knew I was going to enjoy this! The number of restaurants here is staggering, as is the range of prices. After wandering round for a while - taking in the senso-ji temple, and making a wish - we settled down in a small restaurant on one of the side streets. I will confess that I was slightly boring at this point, and opted to sample my favourite Japanese dish from home, the humble Ramen. It lived upto my expectations, and my taste buds lit up. I only hoped that the rest of Japan was like this!

Next, we decided the best way to fight hte Jet Lag that was threatening was to wander off through the streets to Ueno to see the temples and park there. The strangest thing we noticed on the streets was the number of vending machines. That sounds like an odd comment, but literaly, there's at least one every few hundred metres seeling anything from coffee to beer. It's just plain odd, and we hardly saw anyone using them!

Arriving at Ueno station, we joked that we hadn't seen any western food places, and then, as if someone was listening, appeared Starbucks! Of all the things to come across. Naturally, we dived in as a cup of coffee would help to fight off the fatigue. I managed to order the one thing they struggled to understand... and extra shot. Don't do it! Ask for a double. Dan by this point was looking annoyed with me, and I good see the caffeine deprivation causing him to shake.

Heading into the park, we were hit by how tranquile the place is. Here we were, walking in a park in the centre of one of the busiest cities in the world, and we felt like there was nothing for miles! The temples and Pagoda's here are beautiful, and truly the photos (that will follow) do not do them justice!

Feeling the caffeine wearing off, and the jet lag taking control, we decided to wander back to the hostel, looking for a bar on the way. Later, we discovered that we were staying in the most bar starved part of Tokyo! And seemingly the only bar the guide book felt was worth mentioning, was in the area we'd just come from!

We eventually crashed at 6, which was far too early on reflection, and the reason for this post being so long. I woke at 3, and eventually got up at 6. But, it was a fantastic start to the trip!

Tokyo subway map

Posted by Glug 22:06 Archived in Japan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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